Teaching Tips for the Week

Each week, we highlight ways to address some of the most common questions Cornell faculty are asking at the moment. These tips are designed to help you find the information you need, when you need it to help develop the best strategy for engaging your students and providing a dynamic learning experience.


Browse tips from previous weeks

How do I wrap up this semester with meaning and purpose?

December 14, 2020

As we reach the end of our semester and strive to end not just with stamina but with purpose and meaning, it is important to recognize the obstacles you and your students have faced as well as your achievements this fall. It is equally important to find simple, straightforward ways to reemphasize your essential learning outcomes and their value.

Acknowledge the moment

Celebrate the accomplishment of making it to the end of this trying semester. Every faculty member and every student had to overcome new obstacles to teach and learn as effectively as possible this semester, working through a deadly pandemic, a roiling racial justice movement, and a deeply contentious political election with much at stake. Take a moment to acknowledge the collective effort, and celebrate the community-spirited work that we have all contributed to make it through this semester.

Possible approaches:

  • Take a few minutes at the start or end of the last class period 
  • Post an announcement to Canvas
  • Record a brief video message

Reflect on the learning experience with your students

Pick one of your course learning outcomes and ask your students to think about what they learned this semester. With the rush to complete assignments and take exams, students can easily lose sight of the larger learning goals of the course. Asking them to reflect can deepen their learning. Start with some reflection questions about what went well and conversely what was challenging. Responses can include activities students think should continue or examples from other courses. They can focus on how students experienced group work or a sense of community overall.

Possible approaches:

  • Ask students to identify:
    • three things they have discovered about themselves this semester
    • three things that helped them learn in this environment
  • Consider using a white board/Google Doc exercise to capture this collectively
  • Ask students to each share two closing thoughts, and one piece of gratitude or advice

Recognize the importance of self-care for yourself and your students

Review strategies from Cornell Wellness and take a break from technology and screens to remain resilient as The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley suggests. Know that Cornell is a caring community and the CTI will be here to support you when you return.


Previous Tips

How can I help international students succeed in my class?

December 7, 2020

International students are subject to increasing challenges related to visas, politics, culture, finances, climate disasters, and public health. In these circumstances, building an inclusive classroom to foster a sense of belonging is more critical than ever for international students’ learning and wellbeing.

Create opportunities for students to share with you and with each other, using Poll Everywhere, Zoom breakout rooms, or Canvas discussion boards. Ask students to discuss course content. Alternatively, ask students to share where they plan to be, what they plan to do, and what they are looking forward to while classes are not in session. Keep in mind that students may not celebrate the same holidays, be able to leave campus/Ithaca, or join their families. Invite students to share campus community activities or local opportunities via Canvas.

Ask students for anonymous feedback on your class community, group projects, presentations, class participation, or other aspects via a Qualtrics survey. Invite them to rate their confidence on a scale (e.g., confident, somewhat confident, not confident). Alternatively, have groups of 3 students briefly (e.g., 15 minutes) discuss what they would "drop, add, keep, or improve" about your course (assign roles - e.g., scribe, timekeeper, reporter - to add structure) to enhance their learning.

Review student suggestions for refining your course. Remember that international students are making a challenging transition. Reflect on the ways your course fosters connections among domestic and international students, as well as with you; consider ways to provide opportunities for you to know and use each other’s names while sharing cultures and aspirations. This can open up new perspectives on the world and strengthen your learning community.

How can I incorporate active learning strategies in Zoom?

November 30, 2020

Many active learning strategies can be adapted to the Zoom environment. You can ask students to apply and practice what they are learning by solving problems, answering questions, generating ideas, analyzing a text or image, organizing information, or discussing with each other. Students can work individually, in small groups in breakout rooms, or both.

Share ideas and questions in the chat window

Ask students to post an answer to a question or their thoughts about a reading, diagram, artwork, case study etc. in the chat window of Zoom (best for small to medium-sized classes). The chat window can also be used for groups to report on their discussions after breakout rooms.

Check understanding with classroom polling

Students can answer questions in real time using Poll Everywhere or Zoom polling (especially good for large classes). Ask students to share their reasoning for their answers. Consider discussing longer questions or problems in breakout rooms.

Discuss ideas in breakout rooms

During a live online class, pause your lecture and place students into small groups in breakout rooms to discuss a topic or solve a problem. Ask groups to report back, post their answers in the chat, or answer a polling question when they return to the main session.

Use Google apps for student collaboration in breakout groups

Consider using Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, or Google Jamboard for students to collaborate and document their ideas while in breakout rooms. You can make any worksheets or handouts you might have used for in-person activities  into Google Docs or Google Slides. You can also use Google Jamboard like a whiteboard for expressing ideas and organizing concepts.

Students can contribute to these apps simultaneously, and you will be able to see and give feedback on their work. Post a link to the Google app (with editing access) in the chat to give students easy access to it in Zoom.

What are best practices for holding office hours via Zoom?

November 23, 2020

Setting up Zoom Office Hours
  • To set up office hours in Zoom, start by logging into Cornell.zoom.us.
  • Once logged in, schedule a recurring meeting called "Office Hours" and set the days of the week on which it should recur.
  • When selecting the recurrence, choose Weekly and then choose the specific days of the week during which you will be available for office hours.
  • It is also important to turn on the Waiting Room function to ensure students have the opportunity for private consultations.
  • Be sure to select all of the courses with which these office hours should be shared.
  • Also, remember to share the Join link generated when you created the Zoom meeting.
Office hours by appointment
  • To have students or groups of students make appointments for your office hours:
  • set up an Appointment Group in the Canvas Calendar tool
  • from the Calendar, add an Appointment Group by clicking the + button at the top right
  • you will have the options to select the number of students allowed to sign up for each appointment time and the length of each appointment
Multiple office hours using the same meeting
  • To hold multiple office hour sessions in a single day, we recommend setting a meeting to last from 9am to 5pm.
  • then communicate to your students the specific hours during that time that you will actually be available.
  • You will not be able to set a weekly recurring meeting with multiple separate occurrences per day.
Managing participants during Zoom office hours

When running Zoom office hours, use the Participants window to manage which students are in the waiting room and which are admitted during a specific appointment time.

For more information and detailed instructions on setting up Zoom office hours, see Scheduling Zoom Office Hours in the Learning Technologies Resource Library.

How do I coordinate polling activities in Zoom with my TA(s)?

November 16, 2020

Zoom Polling

If you are using the Zoom polling feature, the first step is to create polls before your upcoming Zoom meeting. Only the person who creates the Zoom meeting can create the polls for that Zoom meeting. This person is usually the course instructor. Once the Zoom meeting has started, the Zoom Host can then change the role of a TA to be the Co-Host, and that person can then start and stop any polls you have created in advance. Find more information on Zoom Polling in our Learning Technologies Resource Library.

Poll Everywhere

If you are using Poll Everywhere for your polling, you can add your TA(s) to a Team in Poll Everywhere to allow them to present your polls during your class sessions.

Please fill out the Poll Everywhere Team Request form to request the Team feature. We will create a team based on the information you provide in the request form. You will be the team manager, allowing you to remove and add people.

See Getting Started in Poll Everywhere in our Learning Technologies Resource Library, for additional tips and information. 

For assistance with using either polling method in your Zoom class sessions, please contact us.

What tools should I use to provide captions for the different types of media in my course?

November 9, 2020

I want to provide captions for:

Recordings of Zoom class sessions saved to the cloud

If you are recording live class sessions run in Zoom and saving the recordings to the cloud, Zoom will automatically generate closed captions for cloud recordings, but they may require editing (see Editing Automatic Captions in Zoom for more information).

Best Practices for captioning recordings of class sessions
  • Use shorter recordings: If your Zoom class is several hours long, you can stop/start the recording when appropriate to create several shorter recordings that are easier to caption and more conducive to student learning.
  • Is someone else helping you edit the autogenerated captions? If so, giving them a list of subject-matter terms that appear in the videos can help speed up the editing process and make their work more accurate.

Pre-recorded videos

If you are pre-recording videos for your class, regardless of the tool you use (Panopto, Zoom, Kaltura or another recording tool), all these tools offer automatically generated closed captions. Again, these may be inaccurate; so, please do your best to edit for accuracy.

Best practices for captioning pre-recorded videos
  • Editing Automatic Captions in Panopto in Canvas
  • Editing Automatic Captions in Kaltura in Canvas
    • With Kaltura, the default setting is to automatically generate captions; generating captions can take up to 24 hours, especially for longer videos (see our guide to Editing Automatic Captions in Kaltura)
  • Keep video recordings short. This will shorten the amount of time Kaltura takes to generate the captions, and short videos are also more conducive to student learning.

Captions during a live Zoom session

Do you want captions to appear as you are teaching live in Zoom? Captions typically refer to those for pre-recorded videos and Zoom recordings; wherever possible, recorded videos should include captions.

However, it is also possible to display live captions as you teach in Zoom. These are not required but are appreciated.

Best Practices for Live Captioning
  • Student Disability Services (SDS) will work with you to help provide live captions for students with documented needs for accommodation.
  • Although both PowerPoint and Google Slides can generate live captions automatically, we recommend using the new Live Captions in Zoom (Important note: automatically generated captions are never 100% accurate. To improve accuracy, speak slowly and clearly during the session and remove background noises that might compete with your voice).

I entered grades for an assignment/exam into my Canvas course. How do I release them to students?

November 2, 2020

Step 1

Before grading, make sure your default grade posting policy for the specific Gradebook column or the entire Gradebook is set to Manual Posting Policy. This lets you submit student grades into the system on your own schedule, doing some and coming back to grade others over time without the grades being shown to any students yet.

When grading with SpeedGrader, use the red Submit button for each student to save the comments, annotations, and scores into the Canvas system. It will not yet allow students to see them if you are using the Manual Posting Policy.

By contrast, if the Gradebook is set to Automatic Posting Policy, every comment and score entered into the Gradebook or within SpeedGrader will be automatically released immediately with a notification to students.

Step 2

When you are ready to release the grades to your students, you must proactively Post Grades to students.

To do this within SpeedGrader, click the eyeball icon at the top left to Post Grades. This will allow students to view their grades and receive a notification through their Cornell email that the grades are ready for viewing. 

Alternatively, if you are using the Gradebook, hover over the title of the assignment and click the three dots on the right within the box. From the drop-down menu that will display, click Post Grades option.

How can I adjust my assessments in Canvas to accommodate documented student needs?

October 26, 2020

Canvas Quizzes can be used to create a range of formative and summative assessments, including surveys, practice quizzes, reading quizzes, mid-terms, and exams that can be set with a range of question types to fit your specific teaching needs.

When setting up a timed quiz, instructors may need to give additional time for some students. The Moderate Quiz option, which becomes available once a quiz is published, allows you to add time.

Note that if you set specific quiz availability dates that also frame the time limit of the quiz (e.g. a quiz time limit is 30 minutes, and the “Available From” date is October 26, 10:30 am and the “Available Until” date is 11:00 am on the same day), it is important to remember that the students who have been given additional time will still have to finish their quiz by the “Available Until” date and time, so you will need to assign different availability dates and times to those students. To do this, use the Assign to settings at the bottom of the Quiz Details tab.

  • Learn about giving additional time on a quiz in this Moderate Quiz Canvas resource

  • For instructions on how to assign students different “Available From” and “Available Until” dates, see steps #15 and #16 in Creating Quizzes in our Learning Technologies Resource Library
  • For a step-by-step introduction to setting up a Canvas quiz, see Managing Quizzes in our Learning Technologies Resource Library
  • To help you decide whether Canvas quizzes is the right tool to use for your teaching needs, see our Canvas Quiz Tips
  • For creating exams, see our Tips for High-Stakes Testing with Canvas Quizzes

Note: Copying a Canvas Quiz more than once in a course often causes errors. Use the Assign To setting for a quiz to set different availability windows and the Moderate Quiz function to set numbers of attempts or time limits.

What is the best way to share my course videos with students in Canvas?

October 19, 2020

Kaltura is a video streaming solution available through Canvas. Instructors can use Kaltura to add video to announcements, assignment/quiz instructions, discussion posts, and pages in modules. Students can also add video to discussion posts or “text entry” assignments.

Because Canvas has a limit of 3 gigabytes of file uploads per course, uploading video content directly into Canvas will rapidly use up your course file space. Instead, use Kaltura to place videos on a Page within a Canvas Module.

How do I set up my exams/prelims in Canvas?

October 12, 2020

The Canvas Quizzes tool can be used to administer an exam or prelim. Assessments created in Quizzes may be comprised of various types and combinations of questions. The Center for Teaching Innovation has developed many resources to facilitate the use of Quizzes to conduct meaningful assessment in Canvas:

Instructors can also use Question Banks and Question Groups to organize and randomize different types of test questions.

  • Managing Quiz Question Banks, a guide to using question banks, collections of questions outside of any specific quiz (in our Learning Technologies Resource Library)

  • Managing Quiz Question Groups, a guide to creating pools of questions, allowing you to randomize the questions displayed (in our Learning Technologies Resource Library)

How do I set up and post Zoom recordings in Canvas?

October 5, 2020

The Zoom video conferencing tool allows instructors and students to meet or participate online when they cannot meet or participate in-person. It also allows instructors to record their lectures, save the recordings to the cloud, and share them with their students in Canvas. The Center for Teaching Innovation has developed these resources demonstrate how to set up and share Zoom meetings in Canvas:

For further information, see these additional resources: